By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands
This exchange has opened me up to so many new experiences. For the first time, I am living with a group of internationals. My apartment of four holds a combination of seven nationalities and seven languages between us. The mixture of cultures and perspectives is incredible.
When I first found out the range of nationalities and background of the people I was going to live with I was excited about the cooking potential. I love to explore the different cuisines and this was a perfect opportunity to share part of our cultures with each other. I find food very emotive; cooking for people and sharing food is a great way to get closer. As an anthropology student, I see eating together as a very important ritual, in many societies. One girl I live with is Italian/Spanish. We now have pizza nights very regularly. Another girl’s parents are from Pakistan and so her mother sent her a traditional recipe, Baingan curry, for us to all cook together. It was the first time for all of us which was lovely. I’ve also been introduced to a Spanish creation called Kalimotxo. Its red wine and coca-cola mixed together. I know it sounds terrible but somehow it really works.
I’ve also been introduced to Bollywood movies and Taiwanese dramas. There are so many Bollywood movies that I never used to know where to start. Living with someone who knows them all well and loves to show them to, us I’ve been able to get into them. Now I really enjoy them and I appreciated how vibrant, musical and fun they are. I have a newfound appreciation for Shah Rukh Khan, who is the soul of Bollywood in my eyes. My housemate has also taken us to a Bollywood festival and a Diwali festival. Both consisted of more amazing food and lots of dancing performances. Each event was great fun but it was definitely something that I may not have gone to before as I didn’t have an awareness of them.
I’ve even started Latin dancing as my housemate was really passionate about starting. She invited me to join and I thought why not. Now here I am, 3 months in, beginning my second bachata course and going to dance ‘socials’ each week to practice. I feel that it’s a new hobby that I will carry on doing throughout my life. At socials, I meet people of all ages and nationalities who just want to have fun and dance. The atmosphere is always incredible and it’s a very different setting from what I am used to. My first social was very funny. Being asked to dance by strangers and then trying to keep up with these fast, creative dances with no instruction was kind of overwhelming. Latin dancing did not come naturally to me, however, the enjoyment I get from it has made me persevere and now I feel that I’ve improved enormously and I still love every second of it.
These are just a few of the things that I’m encountering while living abroad in a multicultural household. Being on an exchange and out of my comfort zone is encouraging me to try new things, become more open-minded and take all the opportunities I can get.